Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 13

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Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 13

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Tobacco advertisement from the turn of the 20th century.

Like many companies, John Player and Sons, Ltd., used the imagery of Royal Navy as a marketing ploy. Player’s “Navy Cut” Cigarettes was just a brand, not a special type or “cut” of tobacco. Many corporations did all they could to associate themselves with the Royal Navy which continued to be held in high esteem by the public as other institutions from the monarchy to the church suffered steep declines in public support after the conclusion of World War One.

The image of the Royal Navy as the historic bulwark of the nation which had held off every invader from King Phillip of Spain to the Kaiser was an ingrained part of British identity, so the idea that the main battle fleet of the Royal Navy had mutinied shocked the nation.


Headline from New York Times 9.17.31

From a confidential report to Their Lordships of the Admiralty by Rear Admiral Tomkinson, who served as acting C-in-C Atlantic Fleet during the mutiny:

Reports which reached me on the morning of Wednesday (16 September 1931) showed that the position had not improved and was in fact deteriorating. No work was being done now in Rodney, Norfolk, Adventure and Valiant; Rear Admiral Astley-Rushton feared that Dorsetshire, infected by the men on the forecastle of Hood, would cease work; and the Captain of Hood had similar fears with regard to his own ship’s company, who in their turn had been continually subjected to subversive encouragement and abuse from the men on the forecastle of Rodney.

Since Tomkinson was Admiral Commanding Battlecruisers (not battleships, which were different) of the Atlantic Fleet he was actually flying his flag in HMS Hood while acting C-in-C Atlantic Fleet.

Modern day British sailors boarding HMS Dragon, type 45 destroyer commissioned in April 2012. The blue collar worn by the sailors is known as the Nelson Collar after Lord Nelson. Variations of this collar are worn by most modern navies in the world.

Fearing a complete breakdown in discipline, Admiral Tomkinson told the men of the Atlantic Fleet that the cabinet was meeting at 12:00 on Wednesday, giving the impression that the cabinet was reconsidering the cuts. Later in the afternoon, the Admiralty informed Tompkins to order the ships of the Atlantic Fleet to disperse to their home ports.

Officers felt the men would respond to orders to return to their homes and it would break up the concentration of ships. Further, the Admiralty informed Tomkinson that once the ships returned to their home ports, a thorough investigation would be made of how the cuts would affect the men and that “with a view to necessary alleviation being made”.

Nonetheless, the officers aboard the ships gave their orders for the ships to weigh anchor and return to their individual home ports with trepidation, fearing the men might not obey these orders. The men did and the Invergordon Mutiny came to an end although the repercussions continued for months.



New York Times headline 9.18.31

(The Chamberlain referred to in the headline is not Neville Chamberlain, later the Prime Minister of Great Britain associated with appeasing Hitler but of his half-brother, Austen Chamberlain).

[Images courtesy of the Vintage Ad Browser, the Guardian and the New York Times .]

About the Author:

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: